Islam expert Guido Steinberg: "The problem is that Erdogan can barely walk because of his strength"

In the evening, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan comes to Berlin for dinner with the Chancellor.

Islam expert Guido Steinberg: "The problem is that Erdogan can barely walk because of his strength"

In the evening, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan comes to Berlin for dinner with the Chancellor. How sensitive is the visit? Let's not kid ourselves: we are dealing with a politician who has his roots in the Turkish Muslim Brotherhood. We've known this for years, but it's just showing up again in the way Erdogan celebrates Hamas, attacks Israel and tries to present himself as the leader of the Muslim world. The problem is that Erdogan can barely walk because of his strength. You have to think carefully about how to deal with him.

How should the Chancellor act? What do you expect from him? So far he's doing everything right. Despite all the criticism of its president and his policies, Turkey is an important NATO ally, at least theoretically a candidate for EU membership, and a key country in the current migration crisis. Of course, the Chancellor must meet with the President - and during the meeting find some calm but clear words about Erdogan's statements on the conflict between Hamas and Israel.

The Islamic scholar has been researching the contemporary history and politics of the Near and Middle East for years at the Science and Politics Foundation (SWP) in Berlin, with a focus on the Persian Gulf, Islamism and Islamist terrorism. He acts as an expert for the German judiciary in terrorism proceedings and is the author of numerous specialist books.

Erdogan is just one of several problematic rulers that the Chancellor is meeting these days. The list is long: Xi Jingping, the Emir of Qatar, Egypt's President al-Sisi. Do we have to get used to these despots now? In a way, yes. What Scholz is doing is acknowledging reality. The air for Germany is becoming thinner internationally; The number and power of authoritarian states worldwide is increasing. We have to talk to these characters, as difficult as it is from time to time. Whether in refugee policy, security policy or the wars in Ukraine and the Middle East - we cannot avoid authoritarian rulers in Ankara, Istanbul or Riyadh. And Scholz's course has now prevailed in the government.

To what extent? The Foreign Minister initially opened completely different rhetorical barrels than the Chancellor. She spoke of feminist foreign policy and a values-based foreign policy. She's hardly talking about this now, because there are much more urgent, existential questions and our government's actions cannot be reconciled with these very theoretical concepts. Scholz, on the other hand, didn't have any big visions, so it's not that noticeable who he meets with.

His party also tolerates this. Do you have an explanation for this? Scholz is helped by the tradition in the SPD of having often developed a trusting relationship with dictatorships and autocrats - often far too trusting. Actually, his course should create tensions in the SPD, where people like to talk about human and women's rights, minority protection and social democracy worldwide. But in relation to dictatorships, social democracy has always acted in an extremely realistic and often detached manner.

You mean proximity to Vladimir Putin? For example. But Scholz does this more cautiously than many others before him. He misses the naive, unrealistic nature of Frank-Walter Steinmeier's Russia policy, but above all, he misses the chummy fraternization of Gerhard Schröder with despots like Putin and Erdogan. He does this in a coolly pragmatic manner, acknowledging realities and maintaining personal distance. Something else helps him: the party's deeply rooted belief in the mantra of change through rapprochement. Many social democrats still believe that dangers can be reduced by approaching autocrats, not relying on confrontation, but rather on partnership. That's why his party doesn't accuse the Chancellor of his policies.

Does Erdogan actually need us too? Of course. Germany and the EU are particularly important economically for Turkey, which has been in a deep economic crisis for years that almost cost Erdogan his re-election. There is also migration policy, where Turkey benefited from the 2016 refugee deal and would like to have more support. The Turkish government may also be worried that the current debate about anti-Semitism among Muslims in Germany will have an impact on its allies here. There are voices calling for tougher action against the Muslim Brotherhood and also against Turkish religious-political organizations such as DITIB, which are accused of being controlled by Ankara.

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